Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dewhurst, Legislators reach school finance accord

Austin – Key Republicans announced a final agreement on public school financing that will include an equal share in $4 billion of prorated cuts to all school districts across the board.

According to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Senator Florence Shapiro (R-Plano), Rep. Charlie Geren (R-Ft. Worth), and Rep. Rob Eissler (R-The Woodlands), the plan will include an end to the “target revenue” system under which certain suburban school districts received extra money based on calculations made in 2006.

Senator Shapiro told the Capital press corps that the accord, which has been reached “in principle,” includes parts of both the House and Senate versions of the school financing bill.

William Lutz of “The Lone Star Report” news service wrote that “Target revenue is a feature of the school finance system designed to be temporary, but has lasted since 2006. It gives some school districts extra money based on where they were in the school finance system in 2006. Some school districts – particularly a lot of suburban districts – did quite well under the system, others (particularly rural) that receive money under the regular formulas (rather than target revenue) get significantly less per student than those under target revenue.”

Mr. Dewhurst gave reporters a brief snapshot of the agreement while his colleagues take the completed package, details of which have not yet been made public, back to their chambers for approval.

“This was a very constructive process,” Mr. Dewhurst remarked. “It took a little longer than we all had wanted but everyone worked together in good faith.”

Over the first of the next two years, every system will get an equal cut. In the second year, school districts benefiting from target revenue will get a deeper cut, to bring them closer to parity with the districts who get money via regular apportionment formulas.

“What we think is really important is to give the school districts some certainty,” Senator Shapiro said. The Legislature will conduct an interim study on public school finance.

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